City Directories and History: 1908 – L.L. Holler (Eagle Manufacturing Company at 137 West White)
The Herald reported on June 19, 1895 – “That the tobacco factory was built in 33 days, it is three stories, 48 – 104 feet, and contains 289,000 brick. Mr. W.G. Adams is the contractor.”
The Herald reported on Sept. 14, 1895 – “The Piedmont Tobacco Factory is now working full force and it’s products are equal to any.”
The Herald reported on April 4, 1896 – “The Piedmont Tobacco Factory has recently added smoking tobacco machinery to its outfit and is now manufacturing smoking tobacco of all grades.”
The Herald reported on July 22, 1896 – “The tobacco works has been under full operation for about six weeks. They emplyee fifty workers and produce plug and smoking tobacco.”
PIEDMONT TOBACCO FACTORY – The 1890s was a period of tremendous growth in Rock Hill. Textile mills were being developed, residential growth was rapid, and Winthrop came to Rock Hill. In addition to the textile mills, other industries were being created, mostly with investments by local entrepreneurs. One of these was the Piedmont Tobacco Factory. It represented an effort to develop a market for local farmers who were experimenting with growing tobacco as a cash crop.
An article written by Mr. C. L. Cobb, Sr. for the Historical Research Committee of Rock Hill’s Bicentennial in 1952 (papers located in the York County Library) described a number of industries in Rock Hill. He stated that a movement to begin a tobacco factory in Rock Hill began in 1893. The Piedmont Tobacco Factory was chartered in 1895 with a capital stock of $40,000. The Board included Mr. Philip Taylor, Dr. T. A. Crawford, John R. London, W. J. Roddey, J. B. Johnson, D. Hutchison, and Frel Mobley. Mr. Taylor was President and Manager. He came from Raleigh, N. C., where he had experience in the tobacco industry. He was the only Board member who was not from Rock Hill. The plant manufactured plug and twist tobacco and consumed 230,000 pounds of tobacco per year. It employed 100, both skilled and unskilled workers. Cobb described the location of the plant as being on “West White Street just across the street from Rock Hill’s first cotton factory.”
Several articles from the Rock Hill Herald describe the Piedmont Cotton Factory.
On February 23, 1895, an article was headlined “Lot Secured for Tobacco Factory.” It stated that, “Yesterday, the vacant lot on White Street adjacent to the premises of Dr. W. B. Fewell on which his ginnery is located, was sold at public auction for $351.” The lot was described as 70 feet by 199 feet and was part of the property of the former Rock Hill Cotton Seed Oil Company. The lot was purchased by Mr. A. F. Ruff, described as President of the tobacco company, who a few minutes later transferred the lot to the Piedmont Tobacco Works. “The company will erect their tobacco factory there, and work on the buildings will be commenced as soon as plans and specifications come to hand.”
On June 19, 1895, the Herald reported that the tobacco factory had been completed, with the construction taking 33 and ¼ days. The building is described as three stories, 48 feet by 104 feet, and composed of 289,000 brick. The contractor was W. G. Adams. The machinery had been put in place the previous week, and employees were working to start the process. It was estimated that the capacity would be 20,000 pounds per year. An Accompanying article discussed the business of growing tobacco, and appeared to be an attempt to develop a local source for the raw materials for the plant. “Mr. Taylor, the president, who is an expert not only in the manufacturing but also the raising of tobacco, says that some of the lands in this neighborhood are as well adapted to the cultivation of the better grades as any in North Carolina and believes that with experience and the use of trained labor tobacco growing here will be found to be very profitable. The article goes on the list numerous farmers in Vance County, NC and their profits per acre in the cultivation of tobacco. This was an obvious attempt to nurture tobacco growing among local farmers to provide a reliable source of raw materials for the factory.
The Herald reported on September 14, 1895 that the tobacco factory was now working full-force, and that the products being made were equal in quality to any.
The Herald reported on Sept. 5, 1896 – “The Piedmont Tobacco Works received an order yesterday for 1,500 lbs of smoking tobacco from one firm in Charleston. The “Winthrop Girl” – brand is as popular as a smoke as Winthrop girls are maidens.”
Unfortunately, the factory only lasted a short time. The Herald reported on February 19, 1898 a disastrous fire which destroyed the building. At 5:20 on February 18, neighbors reported a fire on the third floor of the building. Despite the efforts of the municipal fire department, the building was in ruins within an hour. The office fixtures and safe were saved, but almost all the goods in the factory were destroyed. Philip Taylor, the manager, had been there until 11 pm the previous night, and noticed no problems. The article stated that the company operating the Piedmont Tobacco Works was organized about five years previously. The building was described as three stories, brick in construction, and costing about $4,500. The machinery cost about $4,000, and the stock on hand was valued at about $2,500, for a total loss of $11,500. The company had insurance of $7,000, including a policy with insurance agents W. J. Roddey ($6,000) and Hutchison & Cherry ($1,000). The factory was described as manufacturing plug tobacco, smoking tobacco, and cigars. Brands of smoking tobacco included “Winthrop Girl” and “Carolina Mixture.”
As a result of the fire, the adjacent cottage occupied by F. A. Clark and his family was also destroyed. The house was owned by Major A. H. White and was insured by $450. Neighbors helped to save many of Clark’s furnishing, but in the confusion, thieves stole some of his possessions.
The article quotes Mr. Taylor as stating that the company will rebuild, but Mr. Cobb’s article stated that this was never accomplished. [Article written and contributed to R&R by P.M. Gettys]
The Herald reported on Sept. 25, 1901 – “That J.H. Milling and J.R. Boulware have bought the old tobacco factory lot on White Street and are preparing to erect a building for the manufacture of wagons and buggies. It will be named Eagle Manufacturing Company. On Oct. 26, the Herald reported the manufacturing company has commissioned by the Sec. of State with capital of $5,000., it will manufacture wagons, coffins and cabinet works. Much of the machinery has already been received. The corporators are; J.M. Milling, J.S. Starr, James R. Boulware, and R.B. Deas.”
The RH Record reported on May 24, 1904 – “The Eagle Manufacturing Co., has been bought by C.G. Creighton and R.B. Deas. They have installed machinery to use power from the dam.”
The RH Record reported on Dec. 31, 1908 – “The Syleecau Manufacturing Co., has purchased the plant and lot of the Eagle Manufacturing Company. The lot borders 100 ft on West White Street and is 500 ft deep, running back to the side track of the Southern Railway. The company will move their entire plant to the new location, including planning mill, woodworking plant, foundry and offices. The old building of the Eagle Manufacturing Co., will be fitted up and enlarged. Seyleecau has been doing business for five years and needed room to expand, better fire protection and shipping facilities. “
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